Faces, faces

By Elizabeth Prata

I ran a community newspaper. Something that was important was to feature the community in the newspaper. I went around endlessly taking pictures of everything happening. My graphics designer, who had a lot of newspaper experience, said: ‘When you take pictures, get close enough to see their faces. Mamas want to see their babies’ face in the newspaper.’

Maybe because I worked so long and so hard to get lots of faces in the paper, whenever I see a photo of a group and the photographer is standing on the other side of the planet and the people in the pic are the size of a molecule, it drives me crazy. If the people are too far away, you can’t see their face.

Now, here is the next topic about faces. Being on the Autism spectrum, I struggle with faces for a lot of different reasons. One is difficulty in recognizing people. This is a newly released study looking (once again) at how people with ASD struggle to recognize people by face. This work appears in Psychological Bulletin. A conclusion was that:

The researchers identified 112 studies representing over 5,000 participants and compared them using meta-analysis, a process that combines and weighs all evidence so it is objective. They found, on average, over 80% of ASD individuals perform worse than typical individuals on tests of face identity processing. “This impairment likely contributes to ASD-specific difficulties with social interaction, which require the ability to identify social partners as unique individuals,” said Scherf.

Yah, it’s a problem. You know who has no problem with recognizing faces, no matter how far away they are or how unrecognizable? God.

We have a God who sees! Genesis 16:13 says-

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees me”; for she said, “Have I even seen Him here and lived after He saw me?”

Hagar had run away from Sarah and Abraham. She was alone with her son Ishmael in the wilderness desert, crying, bereft, and about to die. The verse says,

God heard the boy crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” (Genesis 21:17-18) .

No place on earth is too distant for our God in heaven to be able to recognize us. We are not hidden, we are not lost (in the sense of unobserved). We are not unrecognizable to God! He knew Hagar’s name!

We see another instance of God recognizing another person’s face, and his name. Genesis 4:9,15

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him seven times as much.”

But even before that, God, all the way from heaven, speaking to Cain by name, saw His face.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why is your face gloomy? (Genesis 4:6)

Matthew Henry says in his Commentary, “God is here reasoning with Cain, to convince him of the sin and folly of his anger and discontent, and to bring him into a good temper again, that further mischief might be prevented. It is an instance of God’s patience and condescending goodness that he would deal thus tenderly with so bad a man, in so bad an affair. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Thus the father of the prodigal argued the with the elder son (Luke 15:28, etc.), and God with those Israelites who said, The way of the Lord is not equal, Ezekiel 18:25.”

Henry continues, “I. God puts Cain himself upon enquiring into the cause of his discontent, and considering whether it were indeed a just cause: Why is thy countenance fallen? Observe, 1. That God takes notice of all our sinful passions and discontents. There is not an angry look, an envious look, nor a fretful look, that escapes his observing eye. 2. That most of our sinful heats and disquietudes would soon vanish before a strict and impartial enquiry into the cause of them.”

Source, Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 17). Peabody: Hendrickson.

It is a comfort that God recognizes our face and knows our name. By the same token, it should induce heart trembling, knee knocking fear that no emotion on our face goes unobserved by God. Hagar’s distress in the desert was noted and she was comforted. Cain’s countenance fell into anger and above as M. Henry wrote, God reasons with Cain, i.e. talks him down. He also sees our petulance at our boss, rolled eyes at a parent or friend, jealous eyes coveting a relative’s shiny new X, all noticed by God. He has no trouble recognizing our face, and the emotions on it.

He created us for His glory and for us to enjoy Him, says #1 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The most supreme moment in all of time, space, and the universe, will be when we see HIM face-to-face!

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4).

What will the Lamb look like? Bright in glory and Light, we already know that. Will He be smiling? Solemn? Joyful? How will He look? I am not worried about being able to recognize Him when the time comes, that is for sure. No distance will separate me from His face, no shame will cause me to cover my face. No autism will prevent me from seeing Him for who He is, nor to recognize all the other saints and know them by face. (1 Corinthians 3:12). What a day that will be!

Rejoice in our Savior, praise Him for His creation, His ways, and His tender care of us, despite being on the throne in heaven. He is not too far, He is near.

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

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